I wouldn’t necessarily call this book my favorite book – after all, how many times have I reread Alas, Babylon and Watership Down? But The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron did change my life.
The year was… hmm. I don’t even remember the year. Maybe 1996? 1997? The Reader’s Digest Condensed Version is that I had been married for a couple of years and knew I wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t sure why. I knew I wanted more creativity in my life, and as writing runs in my family, the more I thought and reflected, the more I wanted to see my name on that bookshelf in the store next to my father and uncle.
So I picked up The Artist’s Way, which I had heard was good for breaking through blockage, good for prompts and inspiration and getting you into a new mental stride. And I loved it! Daily journaling to clear my head? Wonderful! Helped me both brain-dump and focus. Weekly artist dates? Fabulous! My inner creative loved having times to pop out, as she had been stuffed down and put away for quite some time as I took on more and more responsibility at work and forgot about play-time. Daily and weekly prompts and activities? Perfect! A wide selection every week, and you didn’t have to choose all of them. Do the ones that call to you the most, for there’s a reason they call to you… and do the ones that repel you the most, because there’s probably a reason for that, too.
But the more I did those artist’s dates, and the more I found myself with a free day here and there… the more I found myself coming back to ceramics.
Ceramics had been my hobby most of my life, taught to me by my grandmother when at four years old, I failed at knitting and crochet but could get my fat little toddler fingers around a paintbrush. It’s something I would do every summer with her – my parents would send me off the Friday after school let out for the summer and it was reading and ceramics and fishing and sitting by the pool and watching her and my grandfather play cribbage until the Sunday before school started again in the Fall. After she had her stroke and moved in with us, one of the first things that she struggled to say, through her frozen throat and tongue that wouldn’t let her say much beyond “shit” and “Oh, Daddy” for the rest of her life (two phrases which she put to good use over the next six years)… was that under no circumstances were her kiln and molds and ceramic paints and supplies to be thrown out. They were go to go me. And they did; for the next six years I would sit next to her on weekends and whenever I would come home after leaving to go to school, letting her watch me clean greenware, paint, glaze, and open the kiln. It’s a hobby I continued after her death in 1991, although I was working long hours in retail and as I moved up the chain of command I had less and less time off… and the time off I did have became filled with things like shopping and laundry and dating and all those things that being an adult brings.
After about 1994 I didn’t really have time. Or room — around 1995 or so I was living in a small apartment and getting married, and the kiln and my ceramic supplies had gone into storage late 1994, when my father had to suddenly sell the farm where he’d been living.
Then I spent a year or two not doing ceramics… and then I did The Artist’s Way. Soon I was buying greenware again at my local ceramic shop, and getting my things fired there. Then I was getting my kiln out of storage and asking my dad to rewire the back porch for 220. Then I was playing in clay on my scant days off. Now playing in clay is what I do all the time.
That’s the book that changed my life.
This topic inspired by Lisa Jacobs; 27 Blog Topics You Can’t Wait to Write About.